Progress or Preservation?: Coming into the Country by John McPhee

Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the nation; Lewis & Clark explored this vast new territory; pioneers loaded their worldly goods into wagons and staked out new lives in unfamiliar lands. This is the classic narrative of America’s relationship with land, it’s ever expanding frontier. In Coming into the Country, John McPhee illuminates what is perhaps America’s true last frontier: Alaska. Among the glaciers, the tundra, the streams, and mountains of the 49th state, McPhee documents the culmination of one America’s greatest conflicts: do we value progress or preservation? Can we accommodate both? Continue reading “Progress or Preservation?: Coming into the Country by John McPhee”


Summer to Fall; Canoe to Classroom

I spent half of the summer sleeping in a tent; the other half on a squeaky cot likely double my age. Working at sleep-away camp means a lot of things: jumping in the lake even on the chilly, rainy days, eating countless s’mores, routinely facing wind and whitecaps in a canoe, singing songs in the key of loud. Each night I would fall into bed – no matter whether my sheets or my sleeping bag – and find hardly an ounce of energy left.

At the start of the summer I set myself a goal: two books a month for June, July, and August. Though I brought a book on every trip and one sat by my bed at camp each night, I finished just one: John McPhee’s Coming into the Country, about the vast wilds of Alaska and the people who care for the land with strong and conflicting convictions. Its review (which will be posted in the next couple of days) is my coming out of the country, leaving the towering white pines and crystal clear lakes behind for a classroom and another group of young people to lead on a very different set of adventures.